Anemone Care, Can I have one?

Jul 14, 2005
Tampa, FL
Anemone Care, Can I have one?

First off, what are anemones?

They are animals of the cnidaria phylum, containing jellyfish, which is named after the stinging cells these animals contain, called cnidocytes. The basic anatomy of a cnidarian is a sac containing a gastrovacular cavity, which provides digestion and nutrient transportation services to the animal. This cavity has only one opening that serves as an anus and mouth. Their movement is coordinated by a decentralized nerve net and simple receptors. Tentacles surrounding the mouth contain nematocysts, specialized stinging cells, which they use to catch prey and defend themselves from predators. Each tentacle holds a small sac containing actinoporins, or toxins, an inner filament with an external sensitive hair. When the hair is touched, it triggers the cell explosion, an extrusion of the filaments that injects a dose of poison in the flesh of the aggressor or prey. The poison is a mix of toxins, including neurotoxins, which serve to paralyze and capture the prey, which is then moved by the tentacles to the mouth for digestion inside a central cavity.

Somewhere near ninety percent of their energy (food) intake is provided by the algae hosted in the anemone’s tentacles. Anemones form an important symbiosis with single-celled green algae species which reside in the animals' gastrodermal cells. These algae may be either zooxanthellae, zoochlorellae, or both. The sea anemone benefits from the products of the algae's photosynthesis, namely oxygen and food in the form of glycerol, glucose and alanine; the algae in turn are assured a reliable exposure to sunlight, which the anemones actively maintain.

Anemones are popular for their mutual symbiosis with many animals, whether it is crabs or anemonefish (clownfish). The anemone usually protects the animal, while in turn it receives scraps of food.

What makes them hard to keep?
They need strong lighting, current (to their specifications), and pristine water parameters. Luckily, it isn’t much of a case by case situation, as most anemones are equally difficult to keep in the home aquarium. I believe the only anemones that are exempt from this are Epicystis crucifer (Rock Anemone). The main aspect that many people aren’t able to meet is the lighting requirements. There is a small range on lighting; however, there are some that will only survive under extremely bright lighting. Along with that, there is a high minimum. I would suggest 150 watts minimum, and if available go for 250. This varies on tank depth, so alter that accordingly, but remember, a 20 inch tall tank would need 150 as a minimum. This amount of watts can be easily achieved using metal halide lighting.

Current is a simple area to cover, just add powerheads until the anemone sees fit. If the flow is too strong, it will move. Anemones will always move until they find a spot that is perfect, to their specifications, not yours, and anchor themselves for a long time.

Pristine water, this can be achieved with a little work and careful attention. You will need undetectable ammonia and nitrite in order to keep an anemone healthy. Nitrate should stay below 0.05ppt steadily. This can easily be achieved by a combination of the following: frequent water changes, a moderate amount of fish, efficient feeding, a deep sand bed, plenty of live rock, a protein skimmer, and a refugium (in which to grow nitrate feeding alga). Anemones also require calcium in their water, among other elements. The calcium levels should remain at 420mg/L, but 450mg/L is preferred, and do not exceed 480mg/L. Anemones will also prefer a secure level of iodine in the water. The pH, temperature, and salinity requirements are like those of other saltwater specimens, 8.1-8.4, 72-78°F, and 1.023-1.025, respectively.

Which ones would you suggest for me?
There are many anemones to choose from so please choose wisely, and if you have doubts do not purchase one. Anemones are not for the beginner saltwater aquarist. I learned this the hard way with an Entacmaea quadricolor (Bubble Tip Anemone) specimen. Here is a list of common anemones, arranged from least difficult to most difficult:

Group 1 - Easy
Epicystis crucifer – Rock Flower Anemone
I find this to be the simplest and hardiest anemone to keep. They will do well anywhere, even low light. They do not require supplemental feeding either. Unique beauty and inexpensive, I got my 4” for $8. Expect 8” for maximum size.

Bartholomea annulata – Curly-Cue or Rock Anemone
Another relatively steady anemone that stays at moderate size of 6”.

Condylactis gigantea – Condy or Giant Anemone
An anemone that will grow to 6”.

The above anemones will survive in a tank of at least 20 gallons, but 30 gallons is preferred for stability. None of the above is known for hosting anemonefish. These anemones have the most easily met requirements. Beginners are discouraged from anemones in general, though I believe these are a viable option.

Group 2 - Moderate
Entacmaea quadricolor – Bubble Tip Anemone (Includes Rose)
This is the most popular anemone. It will readily host most anemonefish species. Under desired lighting conditions, the anemone will gain bulb tips. This anemone will not always display its bubble tips, even while perfectly healthy. The Rose variation of this species is a rarity, and quite beautiful. This specimen is the most likely to reproduce by splitting in the home aquarium. Healthy specimens will reach 12”. A 30 gallon aquarium is its minimum; however, a more appropriate minimum would be 40-50 gallons.

Macrodactyla doreensis – Long Tentacle Anemone
Second in distribution only to the Bubble Tip Anemone in the aquarium trade, this specimen will reach 20” once full grown. A 30 gallon aquarium is its minimum; however, a more appropriate minimum would be 40-50 gallons.

These two listed species are extremely popular, and moderately hardy by relative comparison. Each has similar light requirements, which are quite high. Both species will benefit from supplemental feeding 2-3 times a week, even if an anemonefish is hosted.

Group 3 - Difficult
Stichodactyla sp. – Carpet Anemone (Includes all color variations)
A large anemone, typically of 20”, with short tentacles, this anemone is very sticky, and potentially venomous. The Electric Green variation is the most common. Again, a 30 gallon aquarium is its minimum; however, a more appropriate minimum would be 40-50 gallons.

Heteractis crispa – Sebae Anemone
This anemone will also reach 20”. This anemone is a popular host to anemonefish in the wild. Again, a 30 gallon aquarium is its minimum; however, a more appropriate minimum would be 40-50 gallons.

Heteractis magnifica – Magnificent or Ritteri Anemone
This is a truly magnificent specimen. In the wild it is common to reach 36” across, but 10” is their usual maximum size in the home aquarium. This anemone is often referred to as the “Ritz-Carlton of Anemonefish”. Readily hosts almost every species of anemonefish. Standard minimum is 70 gallons, but I would suggest 90 gallons.

The above group should be regarded as difficult to keep. This group requires the most precise of water conditions, and the heaviest lighting you can fit. These should be viewed as a difficult anemone, even to the moderately experienced aquarist. This group will host the widest range of anemonefish than any of my three listed groups. Anemones here are also extremely strong in their attachment, use caution when retrieving tools or hand.

What are some clear signs of a malnourished anemone?
First and foremost, if you have an anemone that will not stop moving, you must remove it from your tank. This is a sign of sure death. An anemone will stop moving once it has found a preferred spot, and will stay, usually for the remainder of its life. The movement should stop within the first week. Another sign of ill-health is a loose mouth. There should only be a small gap in the lips and they should appear pursed. Another typical sign is a stringy appearance. None of these signs can be overlooked. The most common problem is bleaching, usually Entacmaea quadricolor (Bubble Tip Anemones) exhibit this. Bleaching is when an anemone expels its zooxanthellae and loses all color, due to insufficient light. This can be overcome, and repaired over time through increased lighting and near daily feedings. The second most common problem is dyed anemones, usually Heteractis crispa (Sebae Anemone). Dyed anemones have been injected with a liquid dye that will wear off over time. Again, supplemental feeding is a must to help this anemone pull through. Please avoid these dyed specimens when you select your anemones.

Please remember that anemones are not to be kept by the beginner. They are beautiful animals that require specific attention. Once you are able to keep one, all of the work has paid for itself by their sheer elegance and wonder.


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Likes: Limi310
Jan 16, 2004
Syracuse, NY

Heres an interesting piece of information I came across- anemones, if given stable enviornment and the right conditions (doesnbt always happen though) in the wild can apparantly, literally live forever... cells dont "age" apparantly. I thought that was pretty cool.

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Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
Doesn't matter if it's skimmed or not as long as the water quality is bang on. The lighting needs are a little overrated - anemonaes can survive in substandard lighting (but don't get silly, 2 NO fluor won't ever cut it) if you buck up the feeding. No amemonae will survive without feeding for more than a year - you aren't going ot be reaching it 's energy needs with just photosynthesis.
The other big problem with keeping these in small tanks is that they will, and do, eat any fish stupid enough to get caught. In a small tank the chances ofthe happening are very, very high.


Small Fish
Nov 19, 2006
I bought my anemone and I was going to get a small clown cuz I thought that my big old clown would have forgot his wild ways, but decided agenst it. when I got home from work the next day my clown made a home of it, and was quite protective of it. you can see him and the anemone in my sig picture


Superstar Fish
Dec 10, 2006
lol and my goal was get 2 clowns, one anemone and 1 lawnmower my 10g that blenny might as well be a $20 snack -_-

it was funny and sad how at my LFS this huge anemone (might have been a Giant Anemone) ate this one fish but all i could c was his tail (he looked expensive =P)


Small Fish
Nov 17, 2008
I kept a few species of anemones over the last years and for me, rose anemone are the easiest. They split every 3 to 6 months, are not so difficult and I never lost one. Like some said above, stability is the key so the largest is your tank, the better it is.


Small Fish
Nov 17, 2008
As I said above, my anemones split quite often. It's now a problem. I have 3 roses in a 25 gallons and they take to much room or compete with corals.

Any idea on how I can remove an anemone from it's rock?

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Ultimate Fish
Oct 22, 2002
San Ramon, CA
It is really hard to do so without damaging the anemone's foot. Some people have had success using a credit card to kind of slide under/pop them off...but it is really better to remove the rock and anemone together.


Small Fish
Nov 17, 2008
Thanks for your help.
I can't move the rocks so I'll have to try with the power head idea.
A guy on an other forum told me to put an ice cube near the foot of the anemone. I'll try that to.


Jun 7, 2008
if you have a anemone
and you want to remove from rocks
i would suggest to let him do it by himself
he will move soon
however if you are in rush
you can use the power head
dont put ice cube as they are very sensitive to cold and hot enviroment
as u will only end up damaging your pet
use the flow buddy


Small Fish
Nov 17, 2008
My anemones don't move much. When they do, they only move 1 inch and are always on the biggest rocks. I'll try the flow idea first and will add small rocks around them to make sure I can move them once they moved.
If nothing works, I might try the ice cube idea but I won't but that ice directly on them. Maybe if I hold an ice cube at a distance of an inch from the anemone, this will make it want to move a little. Do you think that would do?

I first have to find them a new home. There is not much saltwater tanks in the canadian arctic so it can take a while before I find. So I am not in a rush.
Maybe I'll never find a new place for them so I am also thinking at a new tank with only anemones in it. That could be a nice setup I think.

Thanks for your help


New Fish
Feb 28, 2009
Hi, this might very well be a dumb question. But I was curious, is there such a thing as a freshwater anemone, or are they only found in saltwater? I've been building up a freshwater aquarium, and I'd really like to have an anemone if it's possible.


If anyone knows, it would be a great help. Thank you.


Small Fish
Aug 5, 2009
longford, ireland
hi... i recently was given a lovely anemone not sure wat type. he moved around for the first few days but has seemed to have settled now at the base of the tank, but every now and again it retracts itself in to a small this normal..
also what do you recommend feedin it and how often...


Elite Fish
Mar 3, 2005
NE Indiana
yes this is normal.....depends on what type of anemone you have. Most are photo dependant and need high intensity lighting whereas others are not. Provided you have a healthy specimen you could try feeding a small piece of silverside or shrimp every few weeks. Do not over feed as this is one of the main causes of mortality in captivity.